Max Verstappen warned he could get a penalty for controversial Safety Car restarts

Max Verstappen has deployed a unique tactic ahead of Safety Car restarts in recent races.

Former Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer has cautioned that Max Verstappen runs the risk of a penalty with his Safety Car restarts.

In each of the opening rounds of the 2022 season, Verstappen has put his car alongside leader Charles Leclerc as they geared up for the restart, but the Monegasque has been wise to it on both occasions.

Late on in Bahrain after Pierre Gasly’s fiery retirement, the reigning world champion tried to pull off the tactic, but got himself caught on the inside of the final corner, putting him under pressure from the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz down into Turn One.

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The Spaniard would pass his former Toro Rosso team-mate on the same lap, before the Dutchman retired from the race along with team-mate Sergio Perez due to a reliability issue.

In Saudi Arabia, he went for the outside, but again unmoved, Leclerc simply nudged him to the outer extremities of the circuit, and fended him off on the restart.

Palmer notes that the Red Bull driver was trying to heap pressure on Leclerc, but he was having none of it.

“Max has a restart technique were he likes to get side-by-side with the leader and stop them turning in where they want to be,” he said on F1 TV.

“Charles just didn’t bite. He forced Max slightly wide and stayed in the lead, no DRS of course on the restart, so the pressure wasn’t as bad but Max was really trying to force the issue with that side-by-side.”

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The former driver-turned-commentator said that, as the leader, you want to be on the outside to get the cleanest run, so it is a smart tactic to deploy if you are in second place.

“Charles wants to be heading in that direction on the outside so he can swing into the left-hander that’s coming up and get the most speed through the corner,” he added.

“But because Max is alongside, he’s going to have a much better reaction time because there’s less distance that he can lose, he has a nice view of when Leclerc is going as well and he’s stopping Leclerc from getting to that outside line that he is wanting.

“Max doing his little weaving, Charles is accelerating and braking on the throttle and brakes all to try and get the tyre temps up. But the whole way through this, Max is just sitting there alongside.

“He doesn’t overtake, he’s just sitting there, just being an absolute nuisance for the race leader.”

Haas reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi was sat with the former Renault man, and he questioned the validity of Verstappen’s antics.

“Is that allowed? I was wondering if that is allowed because at the end you are impeding the guy at the front,” he queried.

“I think it is great because it causes some chaos but I don’t know is allowed.”

Palmer recalled Verstappen doing the same thing to Sir Lewis Hamilton ahead of the controversial final lap in Abu Dhabi last year, and admits that he runs the risk of a penalty if he actually overtakes.

“So long as you don’t overtake. Remember in Abu Dhabi were he just about did, it is a fine margin,” he explained.

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“He even caught up with Lewis briefly and that was still being investigated by the stewards. Then he was on the racing line, so Hamilton could not really cut the corner.”

Two-time Nurburgring Endurance champion Brad Philpot was especially unappreciative of Verstappen’s tactics in Jeddah, saying “Verstappen illegally driving alongside the race leader at a restart again.”